A few years ago, a trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando was killed after a killer whale grabbed her ponytail and dragged her around the tank until she was dead.
This was obviously a terribly sad story, and would ordinarily be chalked up as a rare occurrence if not for the fact that this wasn’t the first time this had happened. Actually, it wasn’t even the first time this same whale had killed a trainer. Indeed, this particular whale, Tilikum, has actually been involved in three deaths at two different aquatic parks. Despite having previously killed two people at the Canadian Sealand of the Pacific Park, Tilikum was moved to SeaWorld in Orlando where he was the only whale that the trainers were not allowed to swim with, due to his size and temperament.
However, not even these safety precautions were enough to stop him from reaching out of the tank and taking 40 year-old trainer Dawn Brancheau by the ponytail and pulling her into the tank during a “Dine with Shamu” event in 2010. For forty minutes, other trainers attempted to rescue Branchaeu from the tank, but were unable to save her from drowning. The incident was witnessed by multiple park visitors in attendance, many of whom did not realize anything was wrong and were probably more concerned with why their lobster bisque was taking so long.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, because I’m thinking it too. With three separate fatalities involving this one whale, shouldn’t it be time to contact the glue factory? This solution would make sense if not for the fact that (A) This is Florida and (B) I don’t think that whales are part of the glue making process (I would assume Elmer’s would be under Sea Shepherd attack if this were the case).
Instead, rather than forcing Tilikum into retirement in some sort of ultramax prison where he could swap tales with other violent sea creatures like Jaws and the Kraken, SeaWorld elected to place him in an isolated holding tank, giving him time to lift weights and plot his revenge.
And, although normal people would think that the isolated tank would be a good place for him to live out the rest of his whale days, SeaWorld instead elected to return him to the show in 2011. This angered many people, most notably (?) Tommy Lee of Motley Crue who wrote a sternly worded letter to SeaWorld, calling Tilikum SeaWorld’s “Chief Sperm Bank.”* This is because rather than castrating Tilikum, he has instead been allowed to sire at least 13 calves, many of which were sold for lots of money to other aquatic parks and zoos. Yes, even though this whale is a three-offender, he has been allowed to reproduce and pass along his genes, which could lead to a potential army of killer Killer Whales.
These days Tilikum spends his days performing and breeding, like a young Rolling Stone, while SeaWorld cashes the checks.
Apparently it’s true even in the animal kingdom that you can be a huge dick as long as you can bring in the money.
*No word yet on how to get such a job.